Politics

2023: Awaiting the third force

  • Politicians walk familiar path ahead of general election

 

FELIX NWANERI reports on the bid by some members of the ruling and main opposition parties to float a new political party ahead of the 2023 general election

 

 

A new political party is in the offing as the race for the 2023 general election gradually begins in some quarters.

 

The new party is being planned by some members of the ruing All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who have their eyes on the presidency but feel that they present arrangement may not allow them actualize their ambitions.

 

A former governor of Imo State and the senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Rochas Okorocha, confirmed the move during his recent visit to Rivers State to commission a road project.

 

Okorocha was elected into the Senate in 2015 on the platform of the APC, while Wike is of the PDP and the relationship between most chieftains of both parties has not been that rosy, especially, with the recent defection of the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, to the APC.

 

But Okorocha, who said his visit to Rivers State was based on his personal relationship with the Rivers State governor, called for alliance of like minds from the two political parties to make a difference in the country’s polity.

 

His words: “There are very bad people in APC and there are very bad people in PDP. So, I think the good people in APC and the good people in PDP must come together for the purpose of making Nigeria great. “Just imagine that I join forces Wike; something will happen.

 

Governor Wike, this is my hand of friendship. Let us bring like-minds and all the great people of Nigeria and those that are complaining, let us make this nation greater.”

 

Though Okorocha has of recent been critical of the APC of which he is a founding member, his declaration in Rivers State jolted most members of the APC given that it came at time the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led national caretaker committee is intensifying efforts to rebuild the party.

 

The displeasure, notwithstanding, Okorocha later came out to explain that the move for a new party was prompted by agitations and complaints across the country about the current state of the nation.

 

“The movement for a new Nigeria has begun and we must come together, I mean progressive Nigerians, to make the country work,” he said.

 

He added that the new group will not be like the APC which was hurriedly formed to take power from the PDP without much emphasis on the character of those championing the course.

 

His words: “The APC was a hurried arrangement, it was hurriedly formed to take power when the then government was drifting. APC would have been better until people who were not members of the party; people who came for congratulatory message hijacked the party and became lords.

 

“The issue is not about APC or PDP, it is beyond political parties, we are talking about the character of the politicians. Political parties in Nigerian don’t have any ideology; it is just a vehicle to come to power.

 

So, what we have is not the ideal thing, we have so many people who are not interested in working for the nation. If President Muhammadu Buhari had surrounded himself with good people, the story will not be the same today.”

 

“We have bad people in APC, just as we have them in PDP and that was why I made the call in Rivers State that the good ones should come together to lead the people.” Quest for a new order No doubt, most Nigerians would love to see an alternative platform to the ruling APC and main opposition PDP come 2023 given the growing discontent for them.

 

Both parties have held sway at the federal level and in most states since 1999, when Nigeria returned to civil rule. The PDP was in power between 1999 and 2015 (16 years), while APC that came to power in 2015, has done five years and would be clocking eight years in power by 2023, when the second term of the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, will elapse.

 

So far, the present dispensation is 21 years, but the general belief among the citizenry is that the two dominant parties have failed short of expectations hence the need for a new platform that will not only do away with old order, but enthrone visionary leadership, which is the principal element that ensures that government serves as a vehicle for the attainment of the socio-economic aspirations of the people.

 

According to those who hold this view, the major challenge that has faced Nigeria in more than half a century of her existence as an independent nation is incompetent leadership.

 

They maintained that the leadership deficit that assails Africa’s most populous country is so legendary that from all indications, the nation has continued to lag behind in an emerging world order that emphasises clear-headed and able leadership.

 

This perception cannot be far from the truth as besides few exceptions, Nigeria has been struck by a string of incompetent leaders at the various levels of governance, and who have and are still running the country aground, while less endowed nations that got independence at the same time with it have continued to make progress.

 

To most analysts, Nigeria’s problem had never been paucity of funds and resources, but lack of political will to do the right thing.

 

This, they said, explains why the country has stagnated in almost all facets, as it takes commitment and focus on the part of a leader to deliver good governance. According to the analysts, a critical look at countries that have made progress showed that they enjoyed visionary leadership at different points in their history.

 

In Nigeria’s case, they put the blame on the process of emergence of its leaders.

 

A familiar path This is not the first time Nigeria’s polity would witness move for a new political platform ahead of a general election. It would be recalled that claims of dismal performance against the Buhari-led APC government had prompted calls for a third force to unseat not only the ruling party, but to equally halt PDP’s bid to return to power in the 2019 elections.

 

Consequently, alliances were hurriedly formed and many big names were flaunted.

 

The move got heightened, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo led the first set of coalition under the aegis of Coalition of Nigeria Movement (CNM). Obasanjo not only galvanised some of his loyalists, including a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, he promised to be part of the struggle.

 

At the inauguration of the CNM, the ex-president canvassed for a movement that is not necessarily a political party from the outset, but could later take the form of a party and lead the country to the Promised Land.

 

“We need a coalition for Nigeria, such a movement at this juncture needs not be a political party, but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong.

 

That movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress, a coalition to salvage and redeem our country. You can count me with such a movement,” he said.

 

The birth of CNM spurred other groups like Nigerian Intervention Movement (NIM), led by Agbakoba, Utomi, Ezekwesili, Umar and a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo, among others. What followed were merger talks between the respective groups and some political parties.

 

One of the outcomes of the talks was CNM’s fusion with the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Expectedly, the alliances attracted a greater percentage of youths, who were buoyed by the passage of the Not Too Young to Run Bill and its assent to law by the President.

 

The belief of the youth then was that new approaches are needed for present-day problems against emphasis on age and experience.

 

But Politics being a game of interest masquerading as a contest of principles; it did not take time before cracks appeared in the coalitions. Lack of cohesion and disagreement

 

over choice of presidential candidates chiefly contributed to the crumbling of the coalitions.

 

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when Obasanjo’s made a detour and endorsed the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar, who served as vice president during his reign and was nominated for the poll by the PDP.

 

The consequence was that the much anticipated hope of a break from the past was never realised.

 

Buhari and those believed to be of the old order were reelected across the various levels of government with only a pocket of youths making it to the legislative houses.

 

A similar scenario played out last year, when some right activists as well as politicians under the aegis of National Consultative Front (NCF) announced plans to float a new political party.

 

Listed then as arrowheads of the plan were former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Ghali Umar Naaba; former president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Former presidential candidate, Prof. Pat Utomi; former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; a former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd) and ex-deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Obadiah Mailafia.

 

Others were Lagos lawyer, Barr. Femi Falana; former Kaduna Central senator, Shehu Sanni; ex-presidential candidate, Prof. (Mrs.) Remi Sonaiya; former ambassador to Ethiopia, Nkoyo Toyo; president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Shettima Yerima; labour leader, Comrade Isa Aremu; former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu; ex-National Chairman of Labour Party (LP), Barr Dan Nwanyanwu and one time presidential candidate, Dr. Tanko Yinusa, among others.

 

The group, which said it was worried by the continued slide of Nigeria into political anarchy and unabated bloodletting and deaths due to incompetence and failure of the present political leadership of the country, in a communiqué, signed by Prof. Anthony Kila and Prof. Jibo Ibrahim, observed that factionalisation and imbroglio rocking dominant political parties as well as heightening political tension in the country gave credence to its resolve and intervention to provide a credible alternative political class and leadership for Nigeria.

 

Unfortunately, the euphoria that greeted the development had hardly gone done, before some of the arrowheads of the NCG started disclaiming the group.

 

Their action revealed that adequate consultations were not made before some conveners of the group rushed to the press to announce the birth of the coalition.

 

For instance, Agbakoba, in a series of tweets after the announcement was mad, said he was not consulted. “Dear all, my attention has been drawn to a widely circulated story that I am part of a new political movement known as the National Consultative Front. Without prejudice to the need for such a political movement, I want to place it on record that I was not consulted and so I am not part of the National Consultative Front,” he tweeted.

 

In the same vein, the Movement of Unity and Progress (MUP) distanced its chairman, Col. Umar, from the political movement. In a statement by a member of MUP, Chris Ephraim, Umar dissociated himself from the new political group, saying neither attended the meeting of the group nor was consulted before he was listed as one of those behind it.

 

The statement read in part: “A group under the auspices of select National Leaders of Conscience met and issued a communique with the name of Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar as one of the attendees and a member. Although Colonel Umar was made aware of attempts to invite him to the meeting, such attempts were unsuccessful.

 

“He, therefore, did not attend the meeting nor was he made aware of his membership. Colonel Umar does not wish to deny the group, whose membership includes persons he holds in high esteem. He, however, wished he was consulted before the publication that included his name.”

 

Also, Falana, said in a statement that neither was he ever consulted on the formation of the group nor did he ever attend the meeting where the forum was launched. He, however, commended the motivation behind the formation of the group, saying he was in support of “all efforts aimed at creating an alternative platform with the potential of lifting the long-suffering people of Nigeria from economic and political stupor.”

 

He added: “I also recognise the fact that some of the promoters of the NCF are people who are motivated by the common good. Many of them have made profound sacrifices to make Nigeria a better place to live. In this light I commend what appears to be the genuine motive of the organisers of the National Consultative Forum.

 

“However, I observe that my name has been mentioned as one of the pillars behind this initiative. While I appreciate the concern of the leadership of the new group to enlist my support, I wish to say that at no time have I been consulted neither did I attend the meeting where the forum was launched.

 

“I appreciate the almost desperate situation progressive Nigerians find themselves in the bid to save Nigeria from what looks like an imminent shipwreck. This might have informed the haste with which many honest and dedicated hands find themselves.”

 

According to him, his clarification should not be conceived as opposition to all honest efforts designed to rescue Nigeria from the claws of abject poverty and increasing loss of hope. “I wish to add that there are several efforts I have been involved lately and I believe there is a growing perspective that all efforts should be harmonised for maximum impact,” he said.

 

How far can Okorocha and others go?

 

There is no doubt that most Nigerians would wish the “good people in APC and PDP” come up with a strong and credible political party ahead of the 2023 general election, but the question is: Will they sustain the steam given that it takes more than a wish to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

 

It was gathered that those behind the new party have perfected their strategies and are likely to launch it any time from now though they are keeping their plans to their chest to avoid incurring the wrath of their respective parties. “There is no pretense about it.

 

A new party is coming up soon. Some members of the PDP and APC who are planning to field a candidate for the presidential election are behind it,” a source within their camp told New Telegraph.

 

The source added that “the arrowheads of the new party are likely not realise their ambitions if they remain in the two major parties because the political equation will work against them, so that is why they are coming together to form a mega party that will give the APC and PDP a run for their money.”

 

But to most analysts, the planned party should not be another platform to jack up the number political parties at a time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has succeeded in pruning down the figure from 91 to 18 over nonperformance of what many refer to as the lesser parties.

 

It was also reasoned that the party, when it emerges, should not be one of those platforms that emerge just to massage the ego of some individuals.

 

Rather, the consensus is that the party must ensure constructive criticism not jibes; questioning the government of the day and holding it accountable to the public; proposing alternatives to what the government is doing, so that the public gets the benefit of political debate between different directions, as opposition is not just about disagreeing with the government.

 

To these analysts, apart from constant throwing of jibes at the ruling party, the opposition should at all times, bring to the fore, those programmes that government is supposed to embark on, which either by omission or commission, it has left undone.

 

 

Criticisms, they further reasoned, should be constructive, positive and always seek to point to those in the saddle of government the way things ought to be done. It was also suggested that the opposition parties should strengthen their respective houses and provide alternative platforms to the people during elections rather than unnecessary antagonism.

 

Regrettably, this has not been the case in Nigeria. Instead of holding the government accountable and serving as alternative platforms, most members of opposition parties chase after political offices.

 

Much noise would be made to rubbish and paint the party in power in bad light, but immediately an opportunity is opened, they grab it.

 

No doubt, most Nigerians say they cannot afford to wait for the time when members of the opposition will come together like the legacy parties of ruling APC – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as well as factions of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) did in 2013 to unseat a ruling party (PDP) for the first time in Nigeria’s history during the 2015 elections, there is the fear that the Okorocha group might go the way of the coalitions that sprang up ahead of the 2019 elections.

 

A pointer to this fear stems from the reaction of the PDP, which Okorocha wants its “good members” to pull out and join their APC counterparts as the main opposition said it was not in the least worried by the plan by Okorocha and a few of his friends to form a new party.

 

The PDP, through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “Our advice to people like Okorocha is for him to avoid making the same mistake twice, any party hurriedly put together like the APC because of elections are bound to fall into the same errors.”

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